COLTRANE. Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album – Verve
Why did I give this CD two ratings instead of one? You’ll find out soon.
COLTRANE. Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album. John Coltrane (saxophone), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Elvin Jones (drums)[June 29, 2018]. CD. Verve. 47:00 */*****:
This release of a 55-year old recording of John Coltrane, one of the century’s greatest jazz performers/composers, seems to be a great find, perhaps the best one of the year. Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album was made on a single day in March 1963 but it took this long for it to see the beguiling mists of twilight. However, its title is a bit disingenuous. It’s not the lost album. There have been two other John Coltrane finds I know of: Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (which I reviewed on these pages) and Live at the Half Note: One Down, One Up, both released in 2005. Coltrane biographer Ben Ratliff says Verve (Impulse!’s parent company) has eighty-six CDs worth of Coltrane’s concert recordings, and it doesn’t really matter whether they are “found” or not. There’s more in the queue.
Okay. So check this out:
The poetically titled piece “01-01 Untitled Original 11383 – Take 1” is both upbeat and nervy and veers into disinhibition for a few bars, but not quite in a drop-dead amazing sort of way. It is notable, because Coltrane gets his riffs going early, only to yield quickly to pianist McCoy Tyner. Tyner tosses the melody line around like a hot pecan muffin for a few minutes, then hands it off to Jimmy Garrison, who plays a bowed bass, soon to snap into pizzacatto. A brief recapitulation by Coltrane and this six minute piece is over, leaving this audience member wanting more. Although they perform like the admirable sidemen they are, I feel Garrison and Tyner are not quite cutting loose with–maybe even restraining–their creative energies.
At its beginning, Coltrane uses an effect I haven’t heard in a long time. When he first hands off to Tyner, he continues blowing while walking away, I assume backwards. It must be an old effect from the early days, when musicians didn’t trust engineers to get the fade effects they wanted in post. Other pieces like “Nature Boy,” a duet between Coltrane and drummer Elvin Jones, have distinctive rhythms, which Coltrane deftly manages to follow amid his florid and spiky lines. Most righteous is the tune “Untitled Original 11386 – Take 1.” (Where’s Take 2? Read on dear listener.) It features a beguiling melody that Coltrane extemporizes on with the dazzling fluidity his fans had come to expect. With its stunningly catchy tune and subtle variations in the repeats, it’s the real winner on this disc. And it doesn’t even have a proper name!
John Coltrane — Both Directions at Once, Deluxe 2 CD Edition
Ok — so why did I give it two ratings? Only in that this particular release is the single disc version, while there is the deluxe two disc version available, for a few dollars more! Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (Deluxe Version)! I’ve heard it also, and the two together are, as Larry David would say, “pretty pretty good!” (They gave me only this stripped-down version to review.) Why not get the twofer, which fills an afternoon of listening quite well: you get to compare four alternate versions of “Impressions,” two versions of “One Up One Down,” and three versions of the illustrious “Untitled Original 11386.” Comparing versions of vintage cuts is the latest jazz sport and it’s wicked fun. That’s what I would do, if I were you and I were serious about the career of the legendary John Coltrane.